Hello readers! Surprised I’m still writing? I’m not. I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to find an alternative to using WordPress because this platform frustrates me for many different reasons. I wanted to leave it and never come back, but unfortunately for me, there just isn’t as anything as easy to set up, free or easily transferable. So I’m back to this shoddy thing and I’m going to make the best of it! I’ve decided to expand this blog into my Canadian adventures and write about not only the things I up to throughout the year, but I’m also going to share advice, ideas, sights and experiences to be had in Alberta. This is a gorgeous province, and I want to share it with whoever’s interested.
My last blog post left off with my return to Calgary, which went fairly smoothly. I spent a day unpacking everything I’d used in New Zealand, running multiple loads of laundry and spending time with my family. It was good to be home. The following day, I packed everything up in my car and headed back to Banff, ready to return for good this time. The very next day, I began my newest adventure: a career! After much interviewing, fingerprinting, emailing and signing, I have been offered and accepted a position with Parks Canada.
The summer of 2014 in Ottawa, as a Parliamentary Tour Guide, had a huge impact on me personally and professionally. It opened my mind to new experiences, to new career choices and taught me really valuable skills I have used in every job since. It was first there, during a mentoring session, that they discussed the notion of “heritage interpretation” and it was like someone finally turned the light on. I’d loved guiding at Vimy Ridge, I loved what I was doing in Parliament, and I reflected on all of the previous positions I’d worked: in the restaurant at Calaway Park for 4 summers, at the unviersity theatre during my degree and with kids at a recreation center. I realized that in every job I was interacting, educating and engaging with people. This is not only what I was good at, it’s what I sought out and enjoyed doing. I was good at being flexible, dealing with stressful situations, sharing my knowledge and speaking in public.
I’ve never been a particularly school-smart person, but that’s okay because working with the public requires more often than not, a set of adaptable social skills and simple enthusiasm. I’d finally found my niche! And by niche I mean an entire field within tourism in which there are thousands of potential job opportunities. It was with this in mind that I began keeping an open ear to the ground about where I might best fit into this world. I knew I didn’t want to be a flight attendant (as awesome as that job sounds), nor a hotel manager, restaurant owner or even travel agent. I wanted to do something different, something that mattered.
Upon my return to Calgary, Alberta, I fell back in love with the Canadian Rockies at my doorstep. During my university degree (which I changed to Communications to better suit the tourism industry), I began getting out and skiing and hiking more frequently. It was during these years that I realized that I didn’t just love the Rockies, I loved them. So much so, I had to find a way to combine them with my career. Although I’d been around Banff and the national parks, and had visited them throughout my childhood, “Parks Canada” had become so common it had been put on the back burner of my mind, alongside “don’t touch hot things” and “always eat desert first when you have the chance”. It was so obvious, and therefore unseen. Until it wasn’t. The idea that I might find a career with Parks Canada began to develop, and it was an idea that just felt right, all the way down to my core. I loved experiencing nature, I was comfortable in the outdoors, I wanted to learn more and more importantly, I understood why it had to be protected and conserved. This passion often spilled out in conversations and I desperately wanted people to understand why it matters so much -and not just to me, but to all Canadians and visitors to Canada. This is how I explain why Parks Canada is the right fit for me:
“Experiencing something is how we come to care for it, and to appreciate it. Feeling, sensing and living it will make you want to go back for more – and the outdoors can only benefit you mentally, physically and spiritually. I want people to come and have a great time, to love it and to have fun so that they can feel how I feel when I’m out there. But, it can’t just be fun or you’ll walk away no wiser than when you walked in. You have to learn something along the way. Out in the Rockies, in Alberta, and in Canada, there’s so much important culture and history we can learn about and can learn from. But you can’t just teach or people get bored and have no reason to care about it all. So you have to combine the two. You have to get people to come out here and experience the beauties and wonders for themselves, while engaging them so that they can learn about why it’s important to care, preserve and protect. You can’t have one without the other to successfully change someone’s mind or life. That is what I want to do. I want to help people understand why they need to care about our shared history, about our wildlife, and about our environment so they too will be inspired to explore it and will want to preserve it for future generations – and I can best do that by helping them get excited and to see it for themselves.”
It might seem cheesy, but that’s my style and I mean every word. The way I feel just about sums up the Parks Canada mandate. And hopefully that explains why, after so many years of applying and trying to get in, I am so ridiculously excited to begin working for Parks Canada. It is literally my dream job. This summer I will be working at the Banff Information Centre at a Visitor Services Attendant. I see this as the perfect role to start in as it’s very similar to what I’ve been doing at the Banff Gondola, but in a way that’s more in line with my values. I see this as the beginning to not only a new adventure, but also hopefully as the start of a long and healthy career with this incredible organization.
I had my first day with Parks Canada on the 20th of April, 2018. And can I just say that I can totally rock the khaki pants and forest green shirt? Ooooohhhh yeah! And judging by the first week, I can already tell this organization runs completely differently than my previous employer. We get 45-60 mins for lunch, have a really nice staff kitchen or are right downtown if we want to wander out on our break. I get benefits sooner and have a premium contract (whoop whoop for not being a student!). The most refreshing thing is that everyone is incredible kind, willing to help and clearly enjoys their job. It’s not everywhere you can find an overwhelming sense of like-minded people. Like Goldilocks, it’s just the right fit. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it’s the government, and there might be some bumps down the road, but from what I can already tell, it’s going to work so well for me.
The first two weeks went by really well. I was selling passes on day one, slowly learning other procedures, rules and details every day, and I even recorded the bilingual welcome message on the phone on day two! Inevitably visitors have the same 4 questions, and at this time of year when much of the hiking is closed due to avalanche danger, so there’s a fairly limited set of answers we can give. But as time goes on, the list of possible activities will expand, and so will my knowledge. I’m very lucky to come into this position with a solid understanding of the area and it’s activities, or I would be struggling to learn everything at once. Overall though, I feel like this will be a great position for the summer to build on my local knowledge, and to start to better understand how this organization works from within.
On the social side, it was amazing to reconnect with old friends. I said goodbye to John and Jess, good friends from last summer, but also said hello to so many familiar faces. Already plans for hiking, camping and BBQ’s are starting to form in our minds as we talk them over excitedly. We’ve all hung out a handful of times as I’ve been settling in, but I cannot wait to see what sort of shenanigans we’ll get up to this summer, and what new friends I’ll make with work. I also tried outdoor rock climbing for the first time ever and it was so much fun! Hopefully there will be more of that in the upcoming months. It’s going to be an amazing summer, I can’t wait!